No fault divorce, officially named the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force on 6th April 2022. At the same time changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership.

Under the old legislation, couples wishing to divorce before they have been separated for two years or more had to cite either the other party’s unreasonable behaviour or their adultery, the latter being difficult to prove in the absence of an admission. It was not enough to say that there were irreconcilable differences or that both parties agree to a divorce. The Petitioner had to allege fault and blame.

In practice, solicitors were aware of this and usually explained to clients that this was merely a means to an ends; keeping allegations of “unreasonable behaviour” relied upon to a minimum, and recommending that parties do not name the person that their partner has committed adultery with, in order to reduce animosity between the parties.

Under the new legislation, divorcing couples will simply be able to agree to a divorce, without assigning blame or fault and it is expected that “no fault” divorce will become the way forward for separating couples. Indeed, going forward it is not possible to apportion blame for the marriage breaking down.

WHAT WILL ‘NO FAULT’ DIVORCE DO?

Justice secretary Robert Buckland has said of the new legislation “by sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

It is hoped that by introducing no fault divorce, the divorce process will become more straightforward. The new legislation will also remove the possibility of contesting a divorce. It should be noted that under the new legislation the Decree Absolute (the final piece of paper in the divorce) cannot be granted until at least 6 months have passed from the start of proceedings.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

The government has recently introduced online divorce to streamline the process of people obtaining a divorce themselves, without the need to instruct solicitors. If you are thinking of doing this, we recommend that you still come and speak to a solicitor in relation to financial matters before getting the Decree Absolute. This is because, upon pronouncement ofr the Decree Absolute, you may lose out on state benefits, pension benefits, and any matrimonial restriction on the family home will cease.

If you do not resolve financial matters during the divorce process, by way of a legally binding order, then your claims against each other remain open for income, capital and pensions and either of you may apply to the Court in the future for a financial order. This means that if you win the lottery, windfall or receive an inheritance, the other may make try to make a claim over this. Or if either of you has a change in circumstances, you may find that the other feels differently about how the finances have been divided.

If you have any questions about getting a divorce or any other aspect of family law, then please call Julia Drury on 0118 975 6622 (Lower Earley office) or Richard Rodway on 01491 570900 (Henley-on-Thames office) or send us a confidential email to office@thpsolicitors.co.uk